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Making the jump into fine dining. Help!

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
Hello! So I've been a line cook in some way, shape, or form for the past 8 years - I'm 25 years old with no classical training whatsoever. I'm looking to advance my career and in doing so I've secured an interview/trial at a new modern American spot in my home town working under a very well known chef.

Interview is in a week and I'm super nervous, kind of worried about my skill set. I'm interviewing for the grill position - which is an area I excel in... Know my temperatures and can do it by feel, decent knife skills, I've worked mainly in seafood/steakhouse environments with a year long stint in a high end 95% from scratch seafood restaurant but it was still nothing compared to where I'm hoping to work.

I'm worried he's going to ask me to do something I don't know how to do or use terminology I'm unfamiliar with. I've got a ton of knowledge and practical ability I just don't want to get in over my head.

FYI: I currently work as kitchen manager in an upscale sports bar, typically where I end up. I've got a strong work ethic.
Edited by agruesometime - 8/7/13 at 7:13pm
post #2 of 21
I don't think it's something to be nervous about. Honesty is key with your chef. Tell him basically what you've told us - you are passionate about cooking and you want to learn more. You feel comfortable with your basics but there will be certain things that are new to you (which is true for practically all of us when it comes to a new job)

Kick ass & good luck!
post #3 of 21
Thread Starter 
Appreciate the input! That's basically what I explained in my cover letter - that I had a strong skill set but was looking to learn and hone my skills in a chef driven environment. I'm just tired of working in the industry as a "job" you know? I want to work somewhere that fits in with my food philosophy, somewhere I can believe in.

He asked me to come and work with them for the day and to bring my knives - so I'm just really not at all sure what to expect. Never had to "try out" for a position before.
post #4 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by agruesometime View Post

Hello! So I've been a line cook in some way, shape, or form for the past 8 years - I'm 25 years old with no classical training whatsoever. I'm looking to advance my career and in doing so I've secured an interview/trial at a new modern American spot in my home town working under a very well known chef.

Interview is in a week and I'm super nervous, kind of worried about my skill set. I'm interviewing for the grill position - which is an area I excel in... Know my temperatures and can do it by feel, decent knife skills, I've worked mainly in seafood/steakhouse environments with a year long stint in a high end 95% from scratch seafood restaurant but it was still nothing compared to where I'm hoping to work.

I'm worried he's going to ask me to do something I don't know how to do or use terminology I'm unfamiliar with. I've got a ton of knowledge and practical ability I just don't want to get in over my head.

FYI: I currently work as kitchen manager in an upscale sports bar, typically where I end up. I've got a strong work ethic.

I kinda did the same thing you did a few years back. I was 20 years old and a shift manager in a upper end casual restaurant (entrees $20-$35) and wanted to go into a high-end kitchen (dry aged steaks, foie gras, cultured butter, produce from a local farm etc,) with no classical training. They really embraced French technique and cooking style and had really talented employees. I was sh*tting bricks on my stage, I had staged before but never at such a high-end place. I was so nervous thinking people would laugh at me or treat me like I'm completely incompetent. This was not the case however.

 

Go in and make it known you are here to learn, work your a$$ off and people will respect the hustle. Don't know what brunoise is? Ask, they'll tell you. Don't know how to arroser a steak? Ask, they'll show you. Want to learn a station? Come in off the clock and learn. Clean up after others, fetch their mise en place, clean up a spill, you'll soon become everyone's favorite, this pays off HUGE.

 

I started at the bottom (prep, then cold-line, then middle) and worked my way up. I was kinda hoping to start on grill as that is what I did at my other place and was a beast on that station, speedy and temps were dead on. They don't care what you did at other places. If you are going to work at a place with good technique and ingredients you'll have to learn before you can advance. I had the best knife skills at my other place, not even close at this place. I was the big dog at my old place but low-man on the totem pole at this place. Get used to it and embrace it, that's the attitude you need to get your foot in the door.

post #5 of 21
I don't think you'll have a problem. It sounds like you have the right attitude.

There's not much to a stage. They'll pair you up with another cook or chef, and you'll probably help prep & work a station for service. You seem confident with your temps and have high volume experience. So the actual cooking should not be a problem. It's just a different kitchen, more intensive plate ups, and possibly different ingredients and technology. Keep your head down, hustle hard, taste taste taste, show you pick up things quickly and are passionate. You should be golden.
post #6 of 21
You might also be surprised. I've worked at some fine dining restaurants where you just cook/slice your proteins and veggies and then put them in the pass where someone else does the plating and garnishing. Doing that for a hundred or so people a night is a walk in the park compared to slinging hundreds of steaks a night. I've also worked in restaurants where we cooked, sauced, and garnished all the dishes coming off our station (and there were no heat lamps). That's a different animal.

At the end of the day, fine dining is generally just a higher level of passion and attention to detail. And prettier plates. As far as sheer line cooking, someone working the egg station at a busy I-Hop franchise has a harder job than most line cooks in higher end restaurants... IMO
post #7 of 21

Personally i wouldn't worry.  

 

Throughout my career i must have been shown how to do the same job 5-6 different ways.  You see us chefs are fussy b@*$....... and we like things down how we! believe is the best way.  It became tedious, especially when you disagree with certain methods you would have to follow day in day out........  

 

However the day will come when you are top/towards the top of the food chain and you pick components from all the chefs you've been under to make what you believe a desire line for food.

 

Sorry rambling!

 

What i mean is go in like a sponge and watch how the chef and others work, work tidy and absorb your surroundings- most of all enjoy!!!

 

 

Mark

post #8 of 21

be confident in the skills, and work ethic you have and you should be kosher. 

 

ive worked with numerous cats from various culinary schools boasting 'this and that', and theyve, often times, sucked. in the end, i think there is a combination that works well between the two; culinary school/experience.

but what supersedes it all, is work ethic. 

post #9 of 21
I did a similar transition late earlier this year, and I can tell you it's completely worth all of it. Even, if for some bizarre reason, you don't get this job, congratulations on having the nerve to apply, interview, and stage. A lot of us get sucked into routines, and it can be really difficult to break away from a job you know everything about. Let alone apply for a job that you know for a fact will kick your ass.

I totally agree with the advice so far, and to add to it, try to think of it this way:

Did you have the skills a year ago to work grill the way you do now? Of course not. Cooking well is a molotov cocktail of accuracy, consistency, speed, and muscle memory. There are no shortcuts, there's only the continual betterment of one's skill set. Go in with confidence in what you're bringing to the line, ask questions when you don't know, and research mothereffing everything in your off time.

And lastly, find a crack rash remedy that works for your skin and climate. Trust me.
post #10 of 21
Quote:


And lastly, find a crack rash remedy that works for your skin and climate. Trust me.

 

Haha, solid advise.  Or you will be spending your days walking like john wayne!

post #11 of 21
I agree with most of these people, work clean, efficient, yes chef no chef, constantly take notes, diagram walk ins and line setups, within a couple of weeks you will have the kitchen down and impressing the chef. When i hire line cooks i give them easy things to make for me, just one dish i pick, like an omelet, then i see how they prepared it, cooked it, and how much love and finesse they put into it determines how they will approach my menus and methods as they work for me. My point is, if you have passion and a thrive for understanding the items you are working with you will be great in any chefs eyes. Good luck!
post #12 of 21

be confident don't second guess yourself its hard not to but try not to 

work clean move like a boxer i mean  bob and we've when your walking or moving or people are around you 

 

at least these are some of the things i have picked up on since starting my very first Fine dining kitchen job wait what am i talking about i mean my very first Professional Kitchen job ever 

 

yeah i got throw right into the deep end or did i jump right into the deep end with out wing's lol   right in with the sharks 

 

my first job ever in the industry and i went stright to the top in a Fine luxury dining kitchen 

 

i am still struggling 3 weeks in but picking up on things 

i still change my apron 2 times a day and reversing it to the clean side I'm not very clean the chef has scolded me for not working very clean but i am trying he probably has mentioned it every other day to me so i think the main reason 

he is putting up with it is because he sees me getting better and other things 

 

but all the time he is saying Ross this is not school your not here to learn your here to work no do it   i know hes on my case but only because he knows i can do better and wants to push me to be the best 

 

for some reason i get this feeling that i am the one in his kitchen that he is taking under his wing and wants to teach me and help me to be the best to be in his shoes one day kind of like how most have a  a mentee i think he sees me as his mentee and him as my Mentor perhaps 

 

this is his first restaurant that has been his very own to run and I'm the one that had no experience coming in and this is why i feel this way 

 

so you just do what you know best and never be afraid to ask questions 

post #13 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the solid advice! I'm still nervous , but I think my long run of super high volume kitchens will help me out. I'm pretty confident in the skills I do know.
post #14 of 21
Hi,

Being nervous is a good thing... It means you care!
If you are open and honest about what you know, then they won't put you over your head. Also you say your worried about geting asked to do something you won't know how to do... Stop worrying...as this probobly will happen. accept it and figure out a game plan for what to do in the situation. If the restaurant is alot more "fine dining" than your used to there will be mes en place you have never seen before. Admit that you are there to learn.... Honesty and utter devotion smile.gif 150% . If you don't want to say "I don't know how to do that". You could try " can you show me how you do it" -- sounds better smile.gif also find there menu online and research every single word that you don't know. If you know the whole menu b4 you start your one step ahead .

Good luck smile.gif
post #15 of 21
Thread Starter 
So my stage was this morning - everybody was very nice and I seemed to fit in right away! Chef was very receptive to my consistency, constant spot sweeping/wiping and by about two hours in I was running my station alone, chef asked me back for the evening so I ended up working a double. End of the night he offered me the position and I got paid for the stage. smile.gif I'm ecstatic and looking forward to my future here. Thanks again for the advice and for anybody else looking to make the jump, all I can say is to just DO IT! It's worth it!
post #16 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by agruesometime View Post

So my stage was this morning - everybody was very nice and I seemed to fit in right away! Chef was very receptive to my consistency, constant spot sweeping/wiping and by about two hours in I was running my station alone, chef asked me back for the evening so I ended up working a double. End of the night he offered me the position and I got paid for the stage. smile.gif I'm ecstatic and looking forward to my future here. Thanks again for the advice and for anybody else looking to make the jump, all I can say is to just DO IT! It's worth it!

Exactly how my first stage-interview went. That's the best, going in sweatin bullets and then killing it. Congrats man. 

post #17 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by agruesometime View Post

So my stage was this morning - everybody was very nice and I seemed to fit in right away! Chef was very receptive to my consistency, constant spot sweeping/wiping and by about two hours in I was running my station alone, chef asked me back for the evening so I ended up working a double. End of the night he offered me the position and I got paid for the stage. smile.gif I'm ecstatic and looking forward to my future here. Thanks again for the advice and for anybody else looking to make the jump, all I can say is to just DO IT! It's worth it!

 

I don't know why I am secretly cheering for you deep inside, like a little girl. LOL. *clap, clap*

 

Congratulations!!! :)


Edited by scofield143 - 8/22/13 at 11:45am
post #18 of 21
Thread Starter 
So after working my first full week in fine dining... I've come to realize its not as hard as I thought it would be, I'm really enjoying it actually smile.gif I've been running my own station all week, working on my knife skills, and I absolutely killed it last night during a pretty busy evening (325 covers, busy for us). I'm off today and doing prep all day Saturday with Chef so I'm looking forward to that!
post #19 of 21

I knew you'd do great! You seem like the type of guy that'd just slip right in. Good job and good luck in the future!

post #20 of 21

I threw myself into the deep end too, went from 6 or so hellish months deep frying or microwaving nasty packet food, (hardly any of it made on site, just ordered en mass from a place that should be ashamed of itself***), to (thanks Universe/Fate/God depending on your outlook...we cater for all) working as the fourth member of a crew at a 2AA rosette hotel restaurant.

Nothing big, 30 or so covers and around 100 for events, but the expectation to maintain a good handful of awards was high. Chef had also worked at Michelin level, so the menu was a lot to take in at first.

 

Big step, knowing only what I'd read about, watched, or thrown into shape at home for my housemates and not much else.

To anyone going there, I can tell you that I asked a thousand questions, dropped things, broke a tray of glasses full of desserts (that was a fun time afterwards...cleanup was great), but I worked, I worked & worked, to make up for my endless barrage of why this and what thats.

 

I tried to incur the favour of my poor little brigade so they'd put up with having to teach me everything by always trying hard to be on time and not tired/hungover, I can remember being properly late only once- when a tanker spilled & I got chewed up & had to detour about 15 miles around country lanes to avoid the traffic.

I got jibed for hours by the other two chefs that were in.... until the radio news report gave a nice little update of the spilled tanker and how traffic was finally moving.... that was a smug day ;)

 

I also crashed my car rushing to get over to meet friends after having to work late (for people who arrived juuust before close, don't you just love those folks sometimes eh...) and I live 9 miles through winding hills from work.... so on a the huge paychecks we all get I had to beg lifts from family (friends live 20 miles out) and more than a few nights pay for a taxi home, the fare of which came to more than I had earned that night, and would earn for some of the next day. That was tough, waving goodbye to every penny, but keeping the job was everything to me, and it paid off big time in the long run.

 

The way I see it, if you want to be spoon fed the knowledge and know how by good chefs and have them put up with you quite literally bleating in their ear half the time then you'd better commit to the job hard. Bye bye friends, bye bye energetic free time, and (for me and my bad driving anyway) bye bye anything material to show for it.
Worth it.

 

 

 

But I tell you, I was in so far over my head that I couldn't even see the sky (or maybe that was just from forever being inside those four white walls..?), I didn't know how to make pasta, I could only make terrible bread (having never even used fresh yeast before) and my sauces at home barely amounted to deglazing the meat pan (which in itself is such a treat to know about and not to be sniffed at). I was lucky to land in with great people though, and I learned quickly. (Working in a fast paced fast food type venue on a busy road beforehand all summer helped me a huge amount with my speed).

 

15 months in and the Head Chef from one of our sister venues came over to work recently, he's been in the game 25 years (still standing!) and has worked in big London Town, and guess what..? I have a question every time he makes anything I haven't seen before, and most of the time when I see him do something that I've made before.... but aye, if you can learn from someone else's way, why not?

 

---Everyone has a limit though, don't make them stab you, i.e. don't ask when they're busy or it's busy or 2 mins before clock out. I claim no responsibility for any readers of this post being locked in the freezer for asking the same thing over, or for bleating non stop or for whatever other question related annoyance that may arise ----

 

Long post.

Peace out.

 

 

 

*** Anyone else have buy in bbq sauce that melted through the plastic tubs if microwaved for over 5 minutes? Never touched that stuff again, it was delicious though so that was a hard ask.. but I wonder what the hell was in it?!


Edited by PassTheGravy - 1/9/14 at 6:19pm
post #21 of 21
Best of luck.
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